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What Is Exsanguination?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Exsanguination is a term that both doctors and slaughtermen use to describe extreme blood loss. Traumatic injuries to the body can result in this type of blood loss. Certain cultural practices in animal slaughter, such as the halal or kosher methods of killing an animal, involve exsanguination. This usually means that the person or animal will die unless the blood loss is stopped.

In human terms, exsanguination may be present if the person loses more than 40 percent of his or her blood. Less severe blood loss may fall under the classification of hemorrhage. Blood is the transport system the body uses to move essential substances around to cells that need them. For example, oxygen moves from place to place through blood, as do energy sources like glucose. If the cells of the body, especially the cells of the brain, do not receive these essential materials, the body begins to die.

Both external and internal blood loss of this severity is classed as exsanguination. Accidents that cause serious damage to the person, such as car accidents, or falling from a height, can result in exsangination, and people who attempt to commit suicide by cutting through veins can also suffer this blood loss. The blood loss comes as a result of the circulatory system being damaged enough so that blood cannot move through the normal channels, and instead leaks out.

The leakage of blood can find its way out from the body through cuts, or it might collect inside the body as internal bleeding if the person's skin is unbroken. One symptom of exsanguination is hypothermia, which is a body temperature that is dangerously low. The entire bodily tissues also become more acid than normal, which is called acidosis. Coagulopathy also occurs, and this means simply that the blood has trouble clotting normally. Unless a doctor can stem the bleeding by repairing broken blood vessels and tissues, and supplying the patient with donor blood, exsanguination is extremely dangerous and results in death.

In terms of an abbatoir, exsanguination is one method of killing animals. Examples of butchering techniques that use extreme blood loss as a way to kill an animal include halal slaughter and kosher butchering. In these situations, the slaughterman slits the animal's throat and allows the blood to drain from the wound until the animal dies. Some countries require that the animal undergo stunning first, which renders it unconscious before its throat is slit, but others do not.

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